Comment: Following Norwich City now beyond the reach of my pocket
Norwich City's recent progress has been beyond the most cheese-inspired of my dreams. And sadly, as predicted, it is also now beyond the reach of my pocket.
On Sunday, I joined my sons at Carrow Road for the very enjoyable end-of-season stroll against Aston Villa. I was using my dad's season ticket, and it cost me �30 to upgrade it from an over-65 to an adult.
Dad had already paid some �15 per match for his season ticket, so the net cost of this meaningless no-contest against the most mediocre of opponents was �45.
Throw in the petrol to get to Norwich and back, a pre-match pint, a couple of Cokes, a pie and a bag of sweets and it adds up to almost �70.
That is far too much for a family man to find for one football match. Which is why – apart from occasional guest appearances when a ticket can be blagged or borrowed – my days of watching the Canaries in the flesh are over after 33 years.
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For the same amount, I could go to the cinema in Cromer 12 times – or 17 times on Mondays – or buy an adult ticket for every county council-run museum in Norfolk. Alternatively, I could take my family to Felbrigg Hall, Blickling Hall and Horsey Mill.
The Canaries hierarchy will argue – backed by the evidence of burgeoning attendances and rising demand – that Premier League ambitions require Premier League prices.
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And many Norwich City fans, sniffing the sweet smell of (relative) success, will agree that the price is worth paying.
But I know that I am not the only person who is doing a cost-benefit analysis and reluctantly concluding that following the Canaries is no longer 'cheep' enough to justify continuing.
I'm not going to put on the 'it was better in the old days' record.
In my day (the 1980s and early 1990s), the price of a ticket for the Barclay terrace was cheap. But there must have been a problem with the product, as Carrow Road was rarely full, even during the golden era of FA Cup runs, top-five finishes and a European adventure.
Now, despite the crazy cost of a stadium seat, the ground is sold out for almost every match.
Perhaps people are making sacrifices to find the money. Or, more pertinently, perhaps the profile of a Premier League crowd is changing.
Where once football was a pastime for the working classes, the socio-economic profile of crowds has shifted as prices have risen. That has brought with it a diminution of the raw passion that used to be more common.
Many fans come to watch a show, rather than participate in a drama. Which is why even some of the matches this season at Carrow Road have included long spells played out before a backdrop of reverent silence or murmuring and moaning. As someone who prefers passion, I have actually been glared at for singing too loudly and poked in the back by an angry fellow 'fan' for standing up to celebrate a goal.
This sanitised experience is not for me – not at this price.
So an adventure that has endured for one-third of a century is almost over.
It has taken me to countless matches, to Munich and Milan, to the heights of ecstasy and the depths of despair. It has gained me friends and lost me girlfriends. It has made me hoarse. It has made me cry.
But now, thanks to the Sky-inspired economics of excess, the journey is over.